This is the second part of the ”Language Tests for Executive MBA” article, which goes through English language proficiency tests required in the EMBA application process and offers tips for choosing the right exam.
For part I, click here.
There is no fixed pass or fail score on either the TOEFL or the IELTS, and individual higher education institutions set their own score requirements. For instance, Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University (Canada) requires a 93 TOEFL iBT score with a minimum of 20 for each component, which clearly indicates the expectation of a uniformly high level of command in all four language skills. EU Business School (Switzerland) has set the TOEFL iBT score of 89 as a minimum requirement, whilst ESADE Business School (Spain) expects a slightly higher score of 100.
The IELTS score requirements of EU Business School is a minimum band score of 6.5, while Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University has set their band score at 7.0. Other universities like the London Business School (UK) and INSEAD (France) have not stipulated exact minimum required scores, but one would imagine they will not be far off those quoted above.
The third standardised English language test that a growing number of universities are offering as an option is the TOEIC. Unlike the TOEFL or IELTS, this is specifically designed to test your English language proficiency for business purposes. Hence it has been mostly used by companies to check their prospective employees’ command of business-style English. However, since the goal of any EMBA programme is to prepare future leaders in the business world, TOEIC’s profile suits them perfectly. Out of the above-mentioned universities with EMBA programmes, only INSEAD offers the choice of the TOEIC exam.
Finally, the Pearson Test of English (PTE) also comes in two formats – for academic and general purposes. PTE Academic is computer-based and as expected tests the four main language skills, sometimes combining two in the same task, as in the TOEFL. The total test time is three hours and all tasks are done at a computer, including the speaking part. An advantage of this test is that the results come out very quickly – in only 5 days. This test is a little more widely accepted than the TOEIC, including the London Business School, EU Business School and INSEAD.
There are certain EMBA programmes that do not insist on any of the standardised tests. For instance, Skema Executive MBA (France, US, Brazil, China) mentions a general requirement for an English test or an English oral assessment, without getting into details, while also declaring that “no English-language test score is required for students who have a degree from an English-speaking university”. It is the case with most EMBA programmes that applicants with a diploma from an English-speaking university are normally exempt from a standard language test and their English language competence is assessed through a face-to-face interview.
The smart approach
If your chosen EMBA programme offers an alternative of two or more of the standardised exams, the easiest way to make up your mind is by checking which tests are available in your location, in what exam centres and on what dates. The most convenient for you would win. It will be sensible to plan to take your examination several months in advance, considering that the actual results also take months to come out. Make sure to contact your chosen exam centre for some advice and preferably go through a few mock exams to establish where you stand and what you need to work further on to achieve a satisfactory result.
Your preference for a paper-based vs computerised test can also make a difference to your performance and may help you choose between the TOEFL and IELTS.
A challenge for native English speakers
Business leadership in a global work environment can be challenging for native English speakers as well. Although native speakers and those who have a university degree from an English-speaking university will be exempt from any language test, they still have some work to do. Those who are heading to EMBA programmes should be aware that there is a growing school of thought that it is not just up to the non-native speakers to upgrade their English skills, but also up to the natives to show more understanding of the non-natives’ language challenges in a working environment. Easy and smooth communication in a multi-cultural setting should be a two-way process, and native English speakers should be able to go their distance and aim to adapt to foreign accents and different ways of self-expression. As part of this awareness process native speakers should endeavour to minimise their use of idiomatic English, cultural-specific jokes, puns, proverbs, and irony. Adjusting your regional or country accent to one that is more comprehensible for a non-native speaker would also help.